EU-Presidency: Anti-globalisation Activists are Terrorists

Jelle van Buuren  08.02.2002

Spain wants network of intelligence liaisons in the Member States to exchange information on political activists

The European Union repeatedly stated over the past few months that activists would not fall under the new anti-terrorist legislation. The distinction between political activists and terrorists would not be blurred. New proposals from Spain, the current EU-Presidency, however show different.

According to Spain, the European Member States have noticed 'a gradual increase at various European Union summits and other events, in violence and criminal damage orchestrated by radical extremist groups, clearly terrorising society'. In the eyes of Spain, these actions from activists against globalisation are without doubt terrorist activities. They are the work of 'a loose network hiding behind various social fronts', by which Spain mean 'organisations taking advantage of their lawful status to aid and abet the achievements of terrorist groups' aims'.

According to the Spanish proposal, 'violent urban youthful radicalism is increasingly being used as a cat's-paw by terrorist groups in order to achieve their criminal aims'. Therefore Spain wants to introduce a standard form for exchanging information on these 'terrorist incidents'. The information must be exchanged between Member States and Europol. Spain wants to use the BDL-network to exchange the information. This network belongs to the 'bureaux des liaisons', the network of intelligence liaisons in the Member States.

The aim of the information exchange is to 'help prevent such situations arising at summits and other events arranged by various international organisations', as well as 'the prosecuting of violent urban youthful radicalism'. The European Working Group on Terrorism, in which experts from law enforcement and intelligence agencies responsible for combating terrorism in each Member State participate, studies the proposal of Spain.

After the attacks of the 11th September in the United States, the European Union agreed new legislation on combating terrorism. The Union introduced a common definition on terrorism and a European arrest warrant. Civil liberties groups feared these proposals would criminalize political activism. But the European ministers of Justice stated over and over that the new measures were only directed at terrorists. Political activism, even when in turned into violence during demonstrations, would not fall under the scope of the new measures.

The new Spanish proposal however shows different. Political activism and 'social fronts' are directly linked to terrorism. Information has to be exchanged through the intelligence canals of the European Union to prosecute political activist. It is also noteworthy that Spain states that the organisations of political activists are 'aiding and abetting' the achievements of terrorist groups' aims. 'Aiding and abetting' is one of the things that have been made punishable under the new common definition on terrorism of the European Union.

Spain has a very specific approach to terrorism. During the 1st European Conference on Terrorism in Madrid in January 2001, the Spanish Minister of Internal Affairs, Jaime Mayor Oreha, stated: 'Terrorism is not only a group of commandos who act, but is a project that tries to root itself in society, and to combat it is also necessary to struggle against the social, economical, political and also communication structures which support and nourish it.' Spain is acting on this approach. A great many organisations, newspapers and radio stations have been forbidden by decrete in the last four years, without one of these cases ever even reaching a court.

On 17 January 2001, police in Amsterdam raided a famous 'legalised squat' and arrested Juan Ramón Rodrìguez Fernández, wanted by the Spanish police in connection with investigations into the separatist Basque group ETA. Fernández is the lead singer of KOP, a politically inspired band from Catalonia, and is accused by the Spanish police of having links to an "ETA-cell" that was rounded-up in Barcelona last year. He is wanted for allegedly passing information on Spanish neo-nazi groups such as Cedade to ETA, although this information is not known to have lead to any offences being committed. 

Source (as PDF-file):
Brussels, 29 January 2002 (05.02)
Working Party on Terrorism
Subject: Presentation of a Presidency initiative for the introduction of a standard form for exchanging information on terrorist incidents